Sasha Digiulian on Michigan’s World-Class Ice Climbing

16 Mar

Photo Gallery: Sasha Digiulian on Michigan's World-Class Ice Climbing

A world champion on rock and a beginner on ice, Sasha DiGiulian looks to her friend and partner Angela VanWiemeersch who she deemed "a real life Elsa" from the movie Frozen for proper instruction. The proclaimed "ice queen" Angela shows Sasha how to safely evaluate the placement of her ice screws.
Lake Superior creates extremely unique ice formations. The combination of the wind and the spray from waves slamming into the cliffs below covers vegetation around the top of the cliff line. Climbing these formation is a formidable challenge for the Midwest adventure seekers. Here Joseph Thill climbs Bridal Veil Falls rated WI 4 in Munising, Michigan.
The Michigan Ice Festival is based out of the old Central Middle School (which is now the towns community center) located in downtown Munising, Michigan. For one weekend a year about 1,200 climbers and adventure seekers gather in this town of around 2,000 people to come together and celebrate the epic realitively unknown natural wonder that is Michigan ice climbing.
Some climbs are located deep in the back country. So how does one access the inaccessible? Why a five star limo ride of course. Back Country classes where shuttled out to the climbs via various off roading vehicles specifically designed for navigation in deep snow. In true upper Michigan style it was the perfect mix of classic local personality and first time excitement.
The soft sand stone of Northern Michigan seeps water all year long. In the winter months the seeps start to solidify and begin to form epic corridors and pillars made of solid ice. Sometimes the ice caves stretch for miles along the shore of Lake Superior. The caves offer a beautifully surreal playground for climbers and hikers alike.
All climbs are accessible from the top, which makes anchor building extremely easy and efficient. Professional climber Angela VanWiemeersch sets up anchors for her intro to ice class, she utilizes the abundance of large trees while setting up for classes, they make for great anchor points.
Sasha's focus was dialed, every swing calculated and perfectly placed to give her the maximum amount of security while topping out on a very wet pitch of ice located on Grand Island in Munising, Michigan. Her climbing partner and friend Angela VanWiemeersch had ascended the climb moments before and was now belaying Sasha.
All time front country classic "The Dryer-hose" is a very popular destination for those climbing on Sand Point road. It offers a beautiful and easily accessible free standing pillar that is tucked away in the woods with epic sweeping sandstone cliffs on either side.
One of the things the Michigan Ice Festival prides itself upon is being one hundred percent beginner friendly. Even those who have never put a harness on are encouraged to come out and experience what the climbing has to offer. With guidance from pro climbers and local guides festival goers are able to hone their new found skills on the ice.
Before long you'll be swinging like a pro. Feedback from the groups allow for continuous forward progression while up on the wall. Excitement for the person climbing is universally felt throughout the entire class.
Age is no barrier at the Michigan Ice Festival. Youth classes are scheduled throughout the festival offering a low barrier of entry into the sport of ice climbing. Kids are taught fundamental skills like how to swing correctly and how to tie into the end of a rope.
Easily the most accessible climbing in the area "The Curtains" located on Sand Point road in Munising, Michigan offer a dynamic crag that is able to please beginners and veterans alike. With the ice flow spanning the better part of two hundred yards the possibility for a different line every climb is ever present. Here Michigan Ice Fest guide David Hixenbaugh demonstrated proper form on the curtains.
Michigan Ice Fest guide David Hixenbaugh explains the importance of a proper swing to a climber in his Intro to ice class. Proper technique is the foundation of ice climbing, being able to utilize your energy efficiently will allow you to climb harder and harder.
For those who fall within the intermediate to advanced realm of ice climbing, northern Michigan offers the perfect place to test your abilities without having to trek deep into the back country. Five minutes from the road lie climbs that vary from sixty feet to ten feet high. Giving the first time leader a plethora of options to choose from.
Professional climbers Angela VanWiemeersch and Sasha DiGiulian start up the climb "Michigan Blue" rated WI4. Located on the back side of Grand Island this climb was extremely wet and warm. Mid twenty degree temps made for fun sticky swings for Angela as she led the pitch. The original line to the right was determined to be a hollow column that was unclimbable, the pair chose a line to the left instead